With the updated 5 Series, BMW has tried to find the perfect balance between sporty and luxurious but has it succeeded?
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Right from its first generation in 1972, the BMW 5 Series has beautifully blended sportiness with luxury. The seventh-generation car that was launched in 2017 was no different, and now, we have the facelifted BMW 5 Series for 2021. This one comes with some cosmetic changes as well as feature additions. So has BMW made the updated 5 Series an even better balanced car?
Same yet Different
The changes on the outside are subtle yet easy to spot. Like with all new BMWs, you get a big kidney grille, thankfully not as garishly huge as the new M3 or M4. Yes, it does have the same in-your-face look but it doesn't look too big considering the size of the car. The new headlamps are now slimmer and the new L pattern for the daytime running lamps looks quite good. These are all LED units with Adaptive Matrix tech as standard, while the M Sport variant also comes with an additional laser beam which is so powerful it can light up the road up to 650m!
The car we have on test is the 530i which comes with the new M-Sport package that includes a new front splitter which now has a pointy tip, larger air intakes up front with a sporty mesh grille, and a new rear diffuser under the bumper, which according to BMW, aides airflow. The tail lamps are new too with a similar L pattern as the DRLs. They also look slimmer and more aggressive thanks to the blacked-out surrounds.
Twin tailpipes are now standard regardless of the variant you buy. Not sure if a 530i owner would want his powerful petrol to be mistaken for a 520d. The 18-inch lightweight alloys remain unchanged and still look as aggressive as ever. Apart from the usual colours, you now get two new ones: Phytonic Blue Metallic and Bernina Grey.
The interior is as luxurious as they come. Everything feels solidly built and everywhere you touch or feel, you get quality materials. You also get a satin finish for the buttons on the centre console, as opposed to the black finish on the old car. They definitely look more premium, in fact, at first, it seems like they are made of metal but they are actually plastic.
On the M-Sport variant, you get new Sensatec Perforated trim, which is basically a fancy name for synthetic perforated fabric. The Luxury-Line variant still comes with Nappa leather and three different colour combinations.
The sport front seats on the M-Sport also come with adjustable under thigh support and contours. They are supremely supportive and great even for long hours. Moving to the rear, there’s adequate space but at the same time, you do feel a bit short-changed as its main rival, the Mercedes E-Class, comes with a longer wheelbase and nearly twice as much knee room. Still, the bench on the BMW is comfortable, with good support, and the slightly upright backrest is set at a comfy angle too.
Although, on paper, the 400-litre boot space might seem small, unlike the Mercedes E-Class, the space saver is neatly tucked away and the bay is well shaped and wide enough.
With every new car, the screens are getting bigger. You now get a massive 12.3-inch iDrive display which can be controlled through a knob next to the drive selector or touchscreen, gesture control or even voice commands. Overall, it is one of the best systems in the business. The screen is crisp and despite multiple functions, it is actually easy to use.
The 2021 5 Series is well loaded too. As standard, it gets four-zone automatic climate control, an electric sunroof, a Harman Kardon surround sound system, an on board navigation system, an intuitive iDrive with touchscreen, and gesture control. If someone parks too close to your car and there isn’t enough room to get in the driver seat, you can remotely move it and get in with the help of a mini smartphone-like key fob. With the help of front and rear parking sensors, it also automatically steers away from obstacles or brakes to avoid collision.
You get the same engine options as the old car: two diesel and one petrol engine. You can find their specs in the table below. We have the 530i petrol version on test.
252PS at 5200-6500rpm
190PS at 4000rpm
265PS at 4000rpm
350Nm at 1450-4800rpm
400Nm at 1750-2500rpm
620Nm at 2000-2500rpm
If you want a sporty 5, you can go for the 530i petrol which is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo engine and makes a healthy 252PS of power. This motor feels smooth yet punchy and the 8-speed ZF-sourced automatic is a gem. Despite it not being a high-tech dual-clutch unit, the shifts are fast yet smooth at all times. It also manages to find the correct gear for any given situation. This makes the 530i a great everyday car but this engine feels even better when you wring it by the scruff of its neck. Power is strong throughout the rev range and its free-revving nature ensures visits to the 7000rpm redline are accompanied with a wide grin on your face. As a result, the claimed 0-100kmph time of 6.2 seconds doesn't really come as a surprise. What could have been better though is the exhaust note. It does sound snarly near the redline but for a similar amount of money, you can get the 340i which sounds as hairy-chested as a fast BMW should.
Through the corners, like before, the 530i changes direction quite eagerly. Despite the 1.7 tonne weight, it feels light on its feet and the wide tyres give you loads of grip. Even when the dampers are set in Sports mode, the 530i rolls a bit on turn-in initially when pushed hard, but quickly settles down so you can have loads of fun from behind the wheel.
In Comfort mode, the 530i has an absorbent low-speed ride despite the low profile 18-inch tyres. The well-judged spring rates help this German saloon feel supple yet well controlled. Even over rutted surfaces, the suspension has a surprisingly good level of crash-free bump absorption, but the suspension tends to run out of travel over sharp bumps. Yes, there is some firmness at low speeds but it never gets to the point of feeling uncomfortable. Even at higher speeds, the 530i shows good composure, making it a soothing highway companion. Even when you shift to Sport or Sport +, the damping remains remarkably supple which makes the 2021 5 Series usable in any drive mode.
As expected, the 5 Series has a great mix of sportiness and comfort. Now with the changes, it has come that much closer to being almost perfect. It is comfortable and spacious, the engine is a gem, the ride and handling is impressive, and the cabin quality is almost flawless. The 5 Series is now an all-round package, and unlike most BMWs, it’s a car to buy not only with your heart but with your head too.